When will Number 30 be open?

What’s happening?

Many are asking us these questions – “What’s happening at Number 30?” “When will it open?” and the answer is complex, so here’s a full update on where things are and what we’re doing.

As many of you know, we needed to find additional money for various pieces of equipment and fittings for the building to be able to function fully, and, very importantly, we needed to recruit the new Manager, so let’s start there.

In October last year, we advertised the new post of Number 30 Business & Operations Manager role and received many excellent applications, so good in fact that we’d have loved to have had more than one vacancy in Number 30 but, at this stage, only one post was available. We’d especially like to express our good wishes to those who applied but were unsuccessful and say we greatly valued your interest and enthusiasm for the role.

Following receipt of the applications, we went to shortlisting, then a two stage interview process took place in December.

After completion of this process, the new Manager was appointed and we’d like to introduce Nicola Baird, who started in post a couple of weeks ago and who many will get to know in the coming months. Nicola comes with a wealth of experience and skills to bring this incredible new asset for Huntly.

We’d like to thank the UK Shared Prosperity Fund for supporting this new post, helping us create opportunities for social enterprise.

Nicola Baird – Number 30 Business & Operations Manager

Nicola is now hard at work meeting as many people as possible and getting to know the groups, volunteers and those interested in using Number 30 when it’s open, along with organising the mountain of tasks needing to be completed to get the building open.

If you want to make an enquiry about space in the building or have anything you want to know, just get in touch.

The email is – Number30@huntly.net.

Now about the building itself.

Anyone who has ever had an extension or a house built, or even a new kitchen or bathroom fitted will know that however hard you try, it always takes twice as long as you hope to get it fully finished. With a public building like this, dozens of additional requirements also have to be satisfied before it can be opened, like meeting Building Control conditions, Fire and safety regulations, Certification certificates on installations and many more that must be satisfied not to mention getting the snagging finished!

Added to that we have needed to raise the funds for essential equipment and fittings, involving writing applications, submitting them and awaiting outcomes, then have the items installed and meeting funders deadlines. With all of this, you’ll imagine the size of the headache, and it all takes time. This building is huge, and it’s amazing, as many who came on tours in August discovered, but, there’s still a lot to do and we’re going as fast as we can.

There are a couple of major things we still need and are actively looking for which maybe you can help with. The first is an operator for the café. We understand that the catering industry has been adversely impacted by rising energy costs, and although that’s something that we can’t change, Number 30 has taken the route of ensuring that the operator has minimal capital investment to make in this café to get started as we’ve installed an excellent commercial kitchen with a range of new equipment and fittings and the café servery and seating area is already beautifully decorated and finished.

There is an opportunity for an enthusiastic operator to build a very successful business here. Number 30 has a cinema which will show new release films and also stream live events; music events, host conferences, seminars (a number are already booked) host training and other activities, plus there’s an event space (see photo below), which is already being booked for public and private functions later this year, and where catering is being sought. And if that wasn’t enough, within the building there’s a coworking centre, a training centre and a retail space, all adding to the potential growth of their business above and beyond the public café function. This is a fantastic opportunity.

If you, or someone you know are interested in this opportunity, please get in touch.

Number 30 is an ambitious project, it brings together so many facets of use and benefits for the town that it was always inevitable that it would take time to bring it all together. The community (all of you) have been incredible, very supportive and encouraging, understanding the immense task we have undertaken, and over and above those already booking space, many people have come forward with ideas and plans for activities they want to see in the town and volunteers who just want to help make it happen. If you want to get involved too, get in touch, we’d love to hear from you. Here is the email again – Number30@huntly.net.

We’ll be organising more tours during March, so do keep an eye on our Facebook page, website and local media for announcements on dates and times. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions of us and see for yourself where we are, and if you have something you’d like to use Number 30 for, just get in touch.

Below – The Gallery, event, multi-use space.

Below – The Training Room

Below – The Training Room, alternative view

Below – The retail space

Below – Cinema with seating closed

We hope this all helps to explain where we’re up to with this project but again, just contact us with anything you want to know.

This will all come together over the coming months, and if you want to help us, we’d love to hear from you. Thanks to everyone for their patience and understanding.

A revelation!

As the majority of scaffolding has come down, it’s now possible to see the full beauty of the (almost completely) renovated exterior. Naturally, this has given rise to a number of questions, some of which we’ll endeavour to answer here. This renovation has been challenging yet, we have pulled together to deliver the best possible future facility for the community.

Our Design Team, led by award winning architects, LDN, with their specialist conservation expertise, have worked closely with the Conservation Planners, our contractors, Bancon Construction Ltd, and HDT throughout this refurbishment from design stage right through the entire works period to date. Their extensive knowledge and skill has been paramount to bringing this project to this stage.

One questions we’ve been asked is – “why are the windows red?” This choice was predominantly heritage based as buildings of this age (1875) when built, had windows which were often red, green or black. Only following the Post War modernism period in the late 50’s and 60’s when there was a desire for clean lines, unfussy exteriors and the use of white, window colours became lighter and often white. The warmth of the stone colour now contrasts beautifully with the red windows.

The photo below of Huntly town Square in the early 1900’s shows all the buildings had dark window frames, even black!

We are asked “why are the two windows on the Deveron Street side filled in?” – these recesses were part of the original design and were never real windows. When the side was stripped, a window frame was found behind the render on one of the upper recesses, but on the inside, there was no sign of any opening having ever been created. Leaving fake frames isn’t ideal as dirt collects behind them and they soon look unsightly, so we went with framing these with stone and render. Fake windows weren’t uncommon, buildings often incorporated fake windows to bring symmetry and balance to the design. The turret never had windows either, and again, these recesses are a design feature.

We have reinstated previously blocked off windows and a doorway along Deveron Street which now brings some cohesion to what was originally, a collection of five, separate adjacent buildings that the Cruickshanks shop enveloped into over time.

Another question is “Have local companies been contracted to carry out the work” – an excellent and important question to which the answer is yes. Naturally there are always specialist items not available locally in a job like this but our main contractors, Bancon Construction Ltd, (from Banchory,) who are responsible for procurement of the sub-contractors, managed to ensure that as many local companies as possible were contracted for the work.

To date, more than 68% have come from within a radius of 40 miles (some being very close by – Huntly, Keith, Inverurie and Turriff) and a further 12% came from slightly further afield where more specialist products or services were required – like Inverness, yet still within 66 miles of Huntly. Some 20% were specialist product suppliers from various locations around the UK where there were no local suppliers of the items.

The next question is the one many are asking “when will the building be open” The answer to this question requires a a bit of background to explain where we are now. As many are aware, the building was found to be in far worse condition than ever anticipated resulting in it needing a much greater amount of basic renovation work. Combined with 2022 being one of the most challenging years for construction – post pandemic combined with political changes and stuck container boats, building materials prices rose by as much as 50%-100% with lead times seriously impacted, so in turn, the project costs rose.

At one point, to secure the structural integrity of the building whilst remedial work was done, a vast amount of internal scaffolding had to be installed, along with steel supports which severely impacted the programme.

We were then faced with an extraordinary additional cost which no-one could have anticipated which was to SSE for the new electricity connection to the local sub-station – a cost of over £100,000 and a timescale for completion of 7 months.

In order to balance the costs with the funding we’d secured at the outset for the refurbishment, we had to remove items from the main contract to the value of the extra costs, and we must now find replacement money for these items. We have already begun this process, so an example is; we had removed the café kitchen equipment and the joinery for the café servery counter and the Deveron Street entrance reception and ticketing desk from the main contract and so we applied to the Rural & Islands Fund for these items. This bid was successful and so this work is now contracted and will be completed over the coming months.

Our primary task now is to find money for a variety of other items we removed that are necessary in order for the building to be fully functioning – cinema equipment, tech equipment, various items of joinery throughout, some additional decoration, finishing and flooring to the second floor, some fittings and more.

Meanwhile, Bancon’s main programme continues with flooring, final decoration and fitting of large items such as the lift, the cinema seating, entrance lobbies and some final exterior finishing. Then, following the new electricity cable connection, the whole heating and electrical system has to be run and tested, snagging completed, then building must be inspected and signed off by Building Control.

Interior work is going well, though there’s still plenty to do.

This project has been, and still is, an enormous project with huge potential benefits to the town, so realistically, it will take time to complete and it may be early 2024 when the whole facility is fully operational.

We have come a long way in a relatively short period of time (the building was only purchased in July 2019) and now, we’re in sight of completion just four years later. Many projects of this size and complexity have taken organisations up to ten years to get to this stage.

The building before

Once the building has been signed off and handed back to HDT from the contractors, we will be organising some open days for all to come and see it. This will probably be around September and will be widely advertised (including in the windows so keep an eye open)

Some know that throughout the last 18 months, this whole project has been photographically documented by local photographer, Elaine Esson. Elaine has put together a selection of some of these amazing photos and when the building is cleaned, we will display them in the large windows on the Square for all to see. Elaine has done a fantastic job of documenting all the changes throughout the whole construction period, capturing historic details and all the changes so they are preserved forever.

Should you have any specific queries or questions about any aspect of this project, please contact Carolyn Powell either by email – carolyn.powell@huntly.net or by telephone 07551 107573.

The turret before

The turret after

Time captured

Article written by Dawn McLachlan for Huntly Development Trust

The No30 Time Capsule is now safely tucked away beneath the floor and will probably not be seen again in my lifetime. When Huntly Development Trust asked me if I would collect and curate the contents of the time capsule, I relished the challenge. It was an opportunity to count my blessings by looking at all the independent businesses and activities going on in the town, and there was no shortage of them!

Collecting items for a time capsule is a fascinating process. My career in libraries began in a local history archive back in the late 80s and curating items then was a far simpler process. When I first looked at the kind of items to place in a local history archive, we were living in a time of printed items. Every shop, activity, service, and community occasion generated something in print. There were flyers, posters, brochures, and catalogues all easily available. These were easy to catalogue and file and adding in photographs rounded everything off.

Time capsule contents

Whizz forward 30+ years and we are in the digital age where printing is expensive, and we are all doing our bit to save paper. Most of us no longer have our photos printed and catalogues and brochures are all online. This does make the process of curating a time capsule a bit trickier, but not impossible.

A time capsule is very different to a local history archive because I was not preserving general history but instead recording a moment of our social history. I tried to think what I would like to discover in a time capsule and what I would find interesting in the future. As our town has quite a large and active digital presence there were lots of things that I did not need to include. There was no point in putting in things about the general or political scene in the Shire or Scotland as a whole and I wanted to keep the focus very much on Huntly. There was also no point in putting in masses of photographs because the digital images of Huntly are well archived already. Instead, I chose to concentrate on things that are unique to our wonderful wee toon.

It was important to me to try and capture a sense of the town in the last few years. There is no doubt that we have come through the most challenging of times and I wanted the capsule contents to show a little of that. Huntly is an amazingly resilient place, and I felt very lucky to live here through times that were devastating to many communities. To reflect that I wanted to not only have things from the dozens of local businesses, but also items giving a taste of the community groups who are improving the quality of our life here. Obviously it was important to have things that showed some of our sadness too; the businesses who didn’t make it through the pandemic, a face mask, a covid test, the letter we were sent for our vaccinations, the sign we hung on our doors when the gas went off, the letter we were sent when our water went off… all of these things are part of the last few years. I hope that the contents of the capsule will give future Huntly folk a real taste of what life was like here in the early 2020s.

It took a couple of months to gather everything together and I know that there were still things I would have liked to include. Inside the future folk of Huntly will find leaflets and flyers from events going on around the town as well as takeaway menus, business cards, leaflets about local information and services, some advertising pamphlets, the programme from the Strathbogie Horticultural Society Annual Show, and the Huntly Hairst leaflet. As well as this there are some more personal items including a player list from Huntly FC and a short note on a beautiful photograph from local photographer, Dave Simpson, and the beautiful music and voice of Iona Fyfe. There is so much going on in Huntly that it would need a chest instead of a wee time capsule to hold them all! It was a squeeze getting everything into the steel tube, but eventually the bolts were tightened and into the ground it went. A small group of folk donned hard hats and had a sneak peek inside No30 as local celeb, Pat Scott, did the honours and popped the capsule into the floor.

Pat said a few words, as did our own Carolyn Powell, and copies of both speeches were also in the capsule. Pat made a very good point in asking that the capsule be opened during the lifetime of the young folk who have been involved in many ways in No30, and who will be the users of the building for years long after the restoration has been taken for granted.

When the building is open and in use there will be a plaque to remind everyone of the time capsule nestling 1.5metres down beneath the floor. When you walk over it, I hope you remember all the things we have been through in the last few years and feel a sense of pride about how we came through it together. I hope you will enjoy the fully restored No30 and that it will be a reminder of the history of Huntly and an important part in writing its future. I think that my favourite item in the capsule is a letter from a local schoolboy. Joshua McNeill has written a letter to the future in the form of a Day in the Life of a Huntly Boy and I hope that in the years to come when he and his friends walk over the capsule they have cause to think back to Huntly in 2022, and to look forward to life in the future.

An excellent opportunity!

No.30 Café Bar Expressions of Interest now open

Whilst the main focus of attention in this project so far has been the refurbishment works, and it’s hard to miss a huge scaffolded building right in the middle of the town centre and with so much excitement about what it will bring; behind the scenes, a highly skilled group of community volunteers, working alongside HDT have been doing an enormous amount of work to help bring the future of its varied uses together.

The first milestone has been reached today as we can now announce that invitations for Expressions of Interest to operate the new No.30 café are now open. Follow this link for full information. https://www.huntlydt.org/what-we-do/town-centre/no-30-the-square

This is a wonderful opportunity for an operator who is looking for a really special location in a beautiful historic town and within a newly refurbished iconic building which will have lots of exciting activity going on. This an opportunity not to miss.

Details of how to find out more and apply are contained within the link above.

External elevations No.30 – LDN Architects
Image for illustration only, design may vary.
Image for illustration only, design may vary

Update on our Swifts

Cally here from Huntly & District Swift Group. 

I just thought I would write a quick update on swift activity around No.30 before I head off to Segovia.  I will be attending the 6th International Swift Conference which has been held off for two years so looking forward to that.   The city of Segovia welcomes its Common Swift population each April and we (people from many swift conservation groups worldwide) will be welcomed tomorrow evening by the Mayor of Segovia.  The Segovia swifts nest in the enormous Roman Aqueduct which dominates the city and is constructed with large stones but no mortar enabling the swifts to access the gaps between to nest!

Anyway back to Huntly.  The swifts arrived in Huntly bang on time on the 10th May, did their usual disappearing act for a few days and numbers aren’t seeming to be great just now but should increase.  My largest count over the Square was 17. 

There is great activity in the colony next door to No.30 for which I am relieved but nothing to report as yet in the temporary nest boxes.  One afternoon I watched one swift arc’ing repeatedly at the boxes on the frontage so that’s a good sign, however not yet the adult breeders return that I had hoped for initially. The activity at the Carpet shop being so close by will encourage interest and hopefully the non-breeding birds when they arrive in earnest. 

There is plenty of time yet for the swifts to take up occupancy, but it may turn out that the returning established breeders are put off which would be a great shame because they would fail to breed this year but then may investigate again next year or may find somewhere else to go next year.  That would not be the result hoped for, but this mitigation is the only solution available for a build that spans one or several breeding seasons. 

There are risks.  Of course the hope is the boxes may be taken up by the younger birds during the exciting screaming parties that will develop over the next couple of months, they may investigate and roost, imprint for next year and hopefully return to breed. 

It’s a process and we do all we can to encourage!  Incidently I fear we have some sparrows already homing in on some of the boxes – the inevitable – and we are not one species over another but there are pros and cons to this ……that’s for another day!  I believe there was a comment was made regarding the boxes being taped up before the swifts arrived – the reason for doing this is NOT to exclude other species at all but to give the returning swifts the best possible chance of finding their ‘home’.  Swifts are territorial and can enter into fights that can go on for an hour in order to defend their nesting site and we want to minimise this amount of stress to both parties should other birds get in first! Swifts have travelled 8,000 miles non-stop to get here and are exhausted, they don’t need a stand off. 

I encourage people to contact me for further information on what we are doing, I am more than delighted to explain our actions. There is an information board on the hoardings around No.30 which briefly explains the project and has contact details for anyone interested in knowing more.

Some  local people are keen to help with surveying throughout the season which allows me to continue being in all manner of other places around the north east but I will keep monitoring No.30 myself as well as much as possible.  I will be hoping for some good data that I can collate and then  summarise the goings on at the end of the season.  If anyone is interested in joining the survey group please let me know. We have some Swift Walk and Talk events beginning this month, you can check out the dates on our facebook page ‘events’ #huntlyswiftgroup or get in touch direct T: 07411 808573 or e: huntlyswiftgroup@gmail.com.

Thanks for your interest and support – Cally

Beautiful swifts!

As many know, Huntly town Square is home to a colony of beautiful swifts who have been returning to nest, year after year for generations. When a large building like No.30 is home to swifts, it’s imperative that, when work is being done, measures are taken so that the swifts are protected to ensure their safety and survival. We are being assisted and advised in these measures by both an expert ecologist from Landcare Northeast, together with The Huntly and District Swift Group, who will be monitoring the process during the whole construction period. We’re very grateful for this invaluable support as its helps the contractors and HDT implement what has to be done to make sure all is well with this precious species.

Cally Smith from The Huntly and District Swift Group has provided the following update on No.30 swift protection;

Here is a brief update on an exciting project we are involved with in the ‘birth place’ of the Huntly & District Swift Group! This is a listed building which is home to an extremely active swift colony which I have been surveying since 2017. The regeneration of this building to form a multi use community facility is going to be extensive and will span possibly a couple of swift breeding seasons.

The scaffold and wrap is now installed as you can see, and their are 10 Model 30 external boxes fitted to the scaffold to replicate exactly the position of the existing nest sites, plus a couple more boxes for good measure.

We will run two call systems one for each elevation to encourage the returning breeding swifts and can only pray they will take to their temporary accommodation. This kind of project has worked before in England and Europe so we can do no more but try. You can see these particular projects at www.swiftconservation.org The original nesting sites will be reinstated as is once that stage arrives, plus I hope we will be able to pop in a few more!

I am so very grateful to everyone involved with this, they have taken on board all my suggestions for mitigation and are very happy to work with us on protecting and further enhancing this very important colony. Huntly Development Trust and Bancon Construction are pulling out all the stops for our Aviators and i am so very thankful for the advice I received from Edward at Swift Conservation. The appointed ecologist Landcarenortheast is fully onboard and Aberdeenshire Council are looking at this project with great interest. It will become a precedent for future swift projects in the area.

Only time will tell if this is going to work and I know for sure with the help of some volunteers we will be keeping a close eye throughout the season. I will possibly have a tent set up outside all summer!!!

#savetheaviators #swiftconservation #huntlydevelopmenttrust #banconhomes #landcarenortheast

January 2022

A New Year and lots of work to do!

No.30 project contractors, Bancon, returned to site in unusually warm weather for January, having resolved the scaffolding set-up matters prior to the Christmas break so they’re now very busy working with the architects and the Design Team, preparing for the next stages of the work, internally and externally.

A great deal is currently being done by structural engineers around measurements for the steel that will be installed into the back right hand side of the building – the area which will contain the cinema/performance box. This, along with timber and damp work, and confirming many of the projects fine details, means that although the site looks quiet, it really isn’t, there’s a huge amount of crucial work taking place.

A community notice board containing photos and updates is planned for the exterior of the building to be attached to the barrier fencing on the frontage to the Square. This will provide an interesting insight into what’s going on inside as we’re all curious to know what’s happening behind the fencing, so this should be a good way of showing how the build is progressing.

We’re delighted that Bancon are keen to support our project photographer, Elaine Esson, to allow her access to the site at regular intervals during the process to take photographs to document the changes as they happen. This will create a very interesting resource for the future showing the details of the building and the historic features that have revealed themselves. Some of these photographs will appear on the external noticeboard for all to see, and hopefully, in time, the collection can be catalogued as part of Huntly’s history.

Bancon are currently working with our Protected Species specialists and Huntly Swift Group to ensure that nesting boxes and appropriate measures are taken to ensure that the returning swifts have suitable accommodation when they arrive, which isn’t far away now. We’re very grateful to Huntly Swift Group for their amazing help and advice in helping us to protect these important Huntly residents.

Meanwhile inside………

Many more features have been uncovered during the full strip-out of the building which have revealed a glimpse into what the interior would have looked like over 140 years ago.

All the walls of the ground and first floor original shop (the left hand side as viewed from the Square) were completely timber lined, floor to ceiling. Some of the ground floor front timber was partly painted (white) and probably had shelves fixed to it. The original shop floor was tiled with red and white tiled flooring which, with the painted shelves would have looked stunning when it was new.

Ground floor front shop

An extraordinary item was discovered boxed-in between the first and second floors – a very large plaster plinth which may have displayed a shop items or even a statue. Bancon took great care to remove this intact, including its very heavy frame so that it can be reinstated into the finished building. The photo below shows it lying on its face but gives you an indication of its size. Maybe someone knows what this was used to display? Please get in touch if you do. Ideas are welcomed for what this plinth could display in the future. It’s over five feet high with plaster cornicing, so there’s many possibilities – maybe something connected with Huntly’s historic figures?

This is the plinth showing its back, the curved top can be seen

The floors have all been removed from the back rear of the first floor in readiness for setting out the large steel framework for the cinema which has the effect of making the space, which was already large, seem vast.

The removal of the large amount of boxing in between ground and first floor had a huge impact on the atmosphere of the building – the large stained glass window now appears majestically sitting at height within the stone walls, and the atmosphere in this part of the building now feels like being transported back in time.

Some curious features have appeared which maybe local historians can shed light on, so more about that in the next post. Watch this space……..

Welcome to the Number 30 Blog

This blog will document the refurbishment of this beautiful building in Huntly town centre.

The eagerly awaited start of refurbishment work to Number 30 The Square, (former Cruickshanks building) has finally begun!

Whilst it probably feels like a long time since HDT purchased this building, it’s only a little over two years, during which time LDN Architects along with their Design Team have worked with HDT to design it, obtain Planning Permission, Listed Building consent and the Building Warrant then Tender for contractors. And crucially, significant funding has been secured in this time to carry out the work.

This complex process usually takes much longer than two years with numerous projects of this size taking many years to get to this point, so it’s great for the town that we’ve been able to get to this stage reasonably quickly.

The building schedule runs until December 2022, and then there will be a period for snagging and final fit-out, so its hoped that it will be fully ready in early Spring, 2023.

Through this blog, we will be able to regularly record the progress of the build with photos and information so everyone can see how the building work is developing.

Bancon Construction, who are carrying out the building work, have begun the full strip-out, which has revealed some of the fascinating history of this building, and a few surprises too. Old windows and door openings have been exposed, along with some well-preserved stonework to the wall of the former pend.

A Victorian stained-glass window has been revealed, which would have been in the original outside wall between the two buildings and inside the former pend. Although one pane is broken, this can be replaced, and the window kept in place.

Interesting items were found inside the walls which appear to have been placed there by builders around 1850, rather earlier than the datestone on the building of 1875. These artifacts will be re-installed in displays when the centre is completed.

The small figure is known as Frozen Charlotte, or sometimes they were called, Penny dolls. The name Frozen Charlotte apparently came from an American ballad about a little girl who was going to a Ball and didn’t want to cover up her pretty party dress with a coat, so she froze to death on the carriage ride. A little macabre, but historically quite fascinating. Only one is perfectly preserved, others were found to have missing pieces. The stone marbles are probably Victorian too.

Quite a large collection of very tiny (dolls house?) teapots, jugs and plates were inside the walls too and amazingly, even the teapot lids were preserved. These are only about 2cm high.

Over time, as the building was altered, spaces were enclosed, but the strip-out revealed a small hidden cupboard along with its brass coat hooks and wood panelling, giving a small vision of what the building would have looked like over 145 years ago.

More to follow soon…